Talking therapy linked to lower risk of dementia, study finds

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In a study from UCL Psychology & Language Sciences, scientists found using talking therapies to effectively treat depression in adults over the age of 65 may be linked to reduced rates of dementia.

According to the UCL-led Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care, approximately 40% of dementia cases may be related to potentially modifiable risk factors.

Previous studies have also shown that people with depression during older adulthood may be more likely to subsequently develop dementia.

In the study, the researchers assessed whether psychological therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), used to treat depression could play a role in dementia risk reduction.

They examined data from 119,808 people over the age of 65 with strong levels of depression, who had accessed treatment via the national “Improving Access To Psychological Therapies” (IAPT) service, between 2012 and 2019.

IAPT is a free NHS service and offers CBT, counseling and guided self-help, with sessions delivered either face-to-face individually or groups or online.

The team then linked the IAPT participants’ outcomes (depression scores) with patients’ hospital records for dementia diagnosis.

They found 101,452 of the study sample did not develop dementia at eight years, compared to 4,617 who went onto develop dementia.

In the group who did not develop dementia, researchers found 65% (66,211) had strong improvements in their mental health (depression) following therapy.

By comparison, of those who went onto develop dementia, 60.13% (2,776) showed reliable improvement in depression after therapy.

Hence, there was lower rates of reliable depression improvement in the dementia group.

Researchers then found in the groups who benefited from therapy and saw a reduction in depression, 4% (2,776) developed dementia up to eight years later.

By comparison in the group where therapy had no reliable effect, 5% (1,841) went on to develop dementia up to eight years later.

Hence, rates of dementia diagnosis were slightly higher in the group that did not reliably improve from psychological therapy.

The study also found that there was a link between the more therapy sessions an older person attended and lower rates of dementia.

Researchers believe this could be due to a reduction in depressive symptoms because of engaging in the sessions for longer.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was conducted by Dr. Amber John et al and published in Psychological Medicine.

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